With the Bears set to debut this season’s throwback uniforms Sunday against the Vikings, they released a video with several players and chairman George McCaskey late Tuesday to address the controversy of celebrating an era when the NFL was segregated.
They have been marketing the jerseys since summer and will wear them for the first time against the Vikings. They are inspired by their 1936 uniforms, and black players were banned from 1934 through ’45. The Bears did not have a black player until 1952, Jack Silverstein wrote in an article detailing that chapter of NFL history last month.
Activist Jesse Jackson called out team owners from that era, including the Bears’ George Halas, in an op-ed for the Sun-Times two weeks ago.
“As a founding franchise, our organization is glorious, but it’s not perfect,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said.
For our NFC North showdown this Sunday at Soldier Field we'll be wearing our classic jerseys for the first time since 1936.— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 25, 2019
Here’s an important message from our players and Chairman, looking ahead to Sunday. pic.twitter.com/SPbraNMFvL
Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks added, “Wearing this jersey is a sign, a symbol for the people who came before us that weren’t allowed to wear this jersey. And now on our shoulders is the opportunity to represent not only our culture, but our city and our team by wearing this jersey and being the first African-Americans to do so.”
The Bears are also scheduled to wear the jerseys, which retail for as much as $169.99 on the league’s website, for the Dec. 5 home game against the Cowboys. Over their 10 home games, including preseason, they are honoring each decade to commemorate this being their 100th season.
Their video was two minutes long and featured McCaskey, Hicks, Trevathan, quarterback Mitch Trubisky, backup quarterback Chase Daniel and tight end Trey Burton. That group is the organization’s social justice committee, which was formed last season.
The central point of the video was, as Hicks said, that the current team will have the first black players to wear the uniform.
The NFL began as an integrated league, but reverted in 1934.
McCaskey said in the video that reintegration of the league and team was “too long in coming,” and Burton added, “We are proud to be the first African Americans to pull this jersey over our head and take the field to represent this storied franchise and this great city.”